girl wonder, or why women don’t want you there

I’m four–maybe five–and I’m standing on this wooden post that was just driven into the ground for some odd reason I still don’t get.  I am shaking because I’m afraid of small heights.  The post is maybe three feet off the ground, and I swear to God, I don’t know how I got up there.  But there I was–standing–eyes closed.  Sometimes, I open them and look at the sand below.  The bright Colorado sunshine kissing my face.  The big tree rattling its leaves at me.  Adam taunting me from the jungle gym, “What are you doing, Alma?”

“Shut up.  I’m building.”

What was I building?

Courage.

“You’re weird.”

I can still see his sunburned, pudgy face wrinkle at me when he said weird.

“1-2-3-4–WONDER WOMAN!!”

I jump.

And somehow, I didn’t die.

The next day, I climbed the long ladder up to the top of the big metal slide.  I closed my eyes and jumped again.

“WONDER WOMAN!”

And I did that for a lot of years.  For no reason, really, except I wanted to prove that I wouldn’t die.  To myself, I think.

And I never died.

###

Over the last few days, I’ve seen a lot of anger coming from both men and women about the new Wonder Woman movie and about the exclusively female screenings that are happening.

Women are pissed off that men are calling them snowflakes for feeling unsafe around men–for wanting a male-free zone.  And men are pissed because they’re feminists or think they are…genuinely wanting to see a film about a badass woman.

And so it goes.

I can’t speak for my fellow female.  I have less of a beef with men at the screenings than some of my sisters in vagina.  But I get it.  Intimately.  I fucking get it.

But when I see other women trying to explain–they do it in ways that detach us more.  And maybe men just can’t get it.  But I’d like to think sensitive men can.  So I’m going to share some things about myself to help you get it better.  At least from my perspective.  And then, if you’re still confused, feel free to chime in and ask me whatever you need answered.

###

2016.  I am living in Denver.  Cheesman Park.  Denver’s gay neighborhood.  A safe haven for all things different.  It has been my home since February 2005.  I’ve lived in two buildings next to the park, on the same block.  It is a neighborhood of rainbows.  A neighborhood where people yell at you from their balconies to turn on your turn signals.  Where–on the night Obama was elected–people yelled and weeped out loud so all could hear.  A neighborhood where men came out of nowhere to push your car out of the snow.  I moved there just weeks after my mother died.  These are my people.

I’m wearing my Bernie shirt and walk over to East High–knowing there will be no parking.  Ready for the election BS.  It’s standing room only.  And despite my political alignment with Bernie, I am torn because I respect and admire Hillary.

We do what we do, and as we’re all talking–in this wonderful neighborhood that was mine the minute I stepped foot in my old apartment–I hear the first Bernie Bro say something about her.  This man who says he cares about women in the next breath.  This man who opened the door for me.

And it’s like a punch to my gut.  It wasn’t about her competency or about anything she’d done.  It was about her boobs.  I won’t repeat what was said, but I heard similar things over and over and over and over again that night.  And I left there completely disillusioned.

After that, I noticed that Bernie wasn’t reigning it in.  And because of that, I didn’t vote for him.

Even though, ideologically–we were a 98% match.

###

I’m 10 years old.  I got boobs when I was 9.  And they are large.  So large that I wear big sweat shirts.  So large that I tape them down.  Wear bras two sizes too small to keep them down–plus a sports bra.

It doesn’t matter.

The man in the car–the 70+ year old man–follows me home from somewhere.  I am terrified.  Shaking uncontrollably.  My eyes wide.  And he propositions me.

I run.

###

I’m 15.  A man in the neighborhood whose house I pass daily to get to the RTD stop two blocks away suddenly starts saying how he’d like to fuck me against his rose bushes.  I remember how he was always so nice to me when I went trick or treating.  I tell my mother.  Eventually, I walk three blocks out of my way to avoid him.  He follows me for 2 years.  It doesn’t matter which way I go, he’s always there–always muttering things about my body.

###

The week of the election.  I am bawling uncontrollably as it sinks in.  Hillary is our nominee.  And she actually may lose to a man who grabs pussies and brags about it.

I am overwhelmed with emotion.  1) That our world gives that man enough respect to say he’s her equal.  2) That someone who looks like me–who has two boobs and a vagina–who has likely been assaulted and abused just like me and every other woman I know….that somehow, someway…she did what none of the most brilliant women I’ve ever seen were able to do. 3) It’s still not enough for her to be worthy for some men–and even some women. 4) If she’s not worthy–when will I ever be?

And I know then that she won’t win.  Because that is the world I know.  But I vote for her anyway.

###

In the days after the election, I marched with other women.  A few men joined too.  But it was women.  We were the leaders.  We were strong and brave and beautiful and all the fucking things we always are.  And for once, we didn’t have to prove it.  It just was.  And I remembered all the women who came before me.  All the women who taught me how to survive all this bullshit we endure every fucking day.  And I bawled like a baby.  Right there–in this city that is not mine.  And as I cried, I laughed–hard–and was so inspired I cried more.  And the only people who asked me why were men.  And as much as I wanted to tell these men–these supposed comrades–why–I was just done explaining myself to men.  I just wanted to tell them to shut up.  It’s not about you and your understanding today.  It is about our rights to exist and be your equal being at risk every moment of every day.  It is about our collective trauma and our standing up for ourselves–finally–because you and your fellow penis owners failed us.  Maybe not you, in particular.  But you benefit from it–even if it’s without your consent or knowledge–so you are part of it…and that sucks a lot.  And I love you for being interested–but sometimes–the shit hurts too much for me to be patient with your needs.

Maybe you’re sympathetic–but you will never know what it’s like to fear you’ll be raped at 10 because of your body.  To be told you’re a slut because you wear a certain size bra.  And I have seen men just like you watch it and say nothing.  Your understanding of my life is more important, always, than my experience of my life and I am ALWAYS justifying my existence and my experience to you or someone like you.  Do you get that?  No, really–do you?

So, as much as I would love to explain all day what living in this world has done to me–and how I am so sick of hearing your perspectives? I can’t be charitable.  And I know that’s unfair.  But this world is not fair, now, is it?

All I can say is this: when I was a little girl–Wonder Woman was someone who looked like me.  Who was strong and brave always.  And because she was strong and brave always, I could close my eyes and forget I was afraid.

Sometimes, it’s important to experience that–to feel that pride and nostalgia with people who understand that–without a man commenting on her boobs or telling me she’s a shitty superhero.

Sometimes, I need to just take in the fact that someone like me is on the screen, and she’s no one’s damsel.

It’s not about you and your personal goodness.  It’s not about masculinity.  It’s about how feminine images need to be reclaimed and cherished.  Because we don’t have anyone else to hold onto.  Do you get that?

I would love to talk to you about the nuances of feminism and how men belong in that conversation.  But can you let me bawl my eyes out at a damn movie about someone that looks like me?

And–see–as much as I didn’t want to be angry about it–there it is.  Because yes–it makes me angry that we have no spaces where a woman’s experience isn’t overshadowed by a man’s opinion.

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